My mind is racing and I can’t gather my thoughts. I start to sweat and my stomach is in knots. My heart rate starts to increase to the point where I can hear the thumping in my ears. My muscles tense. I start to shake. My eyes well up with tears. When I’m in this space, I rarely speak because my thoughts are so loud. Sometimes, I think it’d be easier to crawl up in a ball in the darkness of my room and not face the world.
Anxiety entered my life at 8 years old when I experienced losing my dad by suicide. It wasn’t just anxiety that came barreling into my life, but also panic, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. For many years, I struggled in silence because I was embarrassed and ashamed. On the outside, I portrayed myself as a happy, well put-together person, but on the inside I was a tornado ravaging through my body and mind.
When people asked what was wrong, I did a great job of carrying on and pretending like I was fine. Pretending was harder than facing my anxiety. I was not myself and didn’t show people who I was. I lost friends along the way because I was unable to be honest with them about the issues I was going through. I figured they wouldn’t understand and wouldn’t want to be my friend if they knew who I really was.
You see, anxiety has ruled my mind since I was 8. I have a professional degree in pushing people away and not letting them in. I’m terrified to get close to people because I worry they’ll leave me anyway. Similarly, I don’t open up to people because it’s hard to explain everything I’m feeling or everything I’ve been through. My mind is ruled by anxiety and that’s hard to explain, especially to those who don’t struggle with it.
If someone stares at me, then I’m afraid they’re judging me. If I’m having a conversation with someone, then I immediately critique the words coming out of my mouth and sometimes wish I could take them back. If you’re having a conversation with me, then I’m probably going over in my mind what I’m going to say next. When I drive down the road, I think about what will happen if I get in a car accident. If I walk outside my house in the dark, I think someone is going to kidnap me. I think of scenarios that have a one in a million chance of happening to me and fixate on them. Yes, they have a one in a million chance of happening, but in my mind, I could be that one.
The thing many people fail to understand is just because you can’t always see anxiety doesn’t mean it’s not there. Anxiety feels like being underwater. When I try to swim to the surface to catch my breath, I’m dragged back under. Each time I’m pulled back, the surface gets farther and farther away.
I was ashamed of my anxiety for so long. I’m so sad about that because it’s nothing to be ashamed of. I’ve learned so many other people struggle with these issues too. I should not have been ashamed to seek help. I wouldn’t be able to face this battle alone. I’m so lucky to have such a supportive family. My mom has been there for me when my anxiety has been so bad that I felt as though I was dying. She has loved me and heard me when I’ve been at my lowest points.
Outside of my family, my therapist has been my saving grace. It’s been three years and she’s been there for me at my weakest, making me feel worthy, seen and heard. The hour I see her each week is the best hour of my week, truly. I went from blowing off my therapy sessions to genuinely enjoying them. I owe that to her. In many ways, she’s been my best friend when I’ve felt like I had no one.
Yes, anxiety is the ruler of my mind, but I’m trying to gain the controller back. You may not see it on the outside, but it’s there.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.